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Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

Parents talk about the struggles and triumphs of raising children with Autism. Families work every day to overcome challenges such as communication problems, sensory issues, temper tantrums, and society’s pressure on Autism children. Video courtesy of interactingwithautism.com

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-The first minute that I saw him, I knew he was my kid. I adopted Neil from an orphanage in Russia, and he was 23 months old. -The first sign that I thought that something was amiss was when I couldn't catch Danny's eye to establish eye contact with him. -She was very emotional, and Keena hate-- hated the way her clothes felt. -He still wasn't talking, wasn't making eye contact. He spun around in circles. He banged his head. He stared at his hand. -And so, later, when Dan's language didn't come in that it suddenly hit me, "Oh, he's on the spectrum." That's what's going on here. -Elijah was approximately 18 months when he was diagnosed. At that point, he didn't have any language. He was pretty much a blank canvass. -It was then that I took her to get her tested, and then by four, she was diagnosed on the spectrum. -I was extremely angry. A lot of people are saying, "No, it's not true, it's not true." The woman that was diagnosing him told us, "Well, you know, he's autistic and he's never gonna have a job and he'll never be able to work. He'll never be able to live alone. So, we just want you to understand that." And I just thought, "Okay." I just didn't have anything. I had nothing to hold on to. -I remember working hard with my first son's program and going out and going to Starbucks and seeing a child picked out a muffin with her-- with her mom. And I thought, "I would never bring my son to Starbucks. He has no language. He doesn't even know if he likes chocolate or strawberry." And yet, they had this ordinary moment that was extraordinary to me. And so, then, it's like throwing salt on my wound. I feel the sting. -And I grieved the dream as a soccer mom, the ideas that I had of what my life would be like, shouldn't I just stop the grieving and said, "Okay, let's just do it." And found out everything I possibly could find out about, about autism. -I just wanted to provide every ample opportunity. I wanted to completely embrace this process. -And then, one day, I was outside writing words with chalk on the driveway for my daughter Jenny who was four and Danny who was two years, three months read every word. So, from that point on, we had an avenue of communication. -And we'd do a sign language. Neil is a wonderful signer, and he's a brilliant communicator, but it's just a matter of me learning what he wants, what he's saying. -It's really just all about love and communication. And now, in my work with families of children with autism, I try to help them through this process. I think it's critical. I think that it's traumatic to have a child be diagnosed on the spectrum in our society. And what I think is it doesn't have to be that traumatic. -A roadblock is put in front of you, and it's very difficult to deal with that. Everything is about the family unit, and all of a sudden, it shifts and everything is about that one child. And I think families have to be very careful to deal with it as a human. -Danny cried quite a bit when he was little, and I've come to understand his hearing was extremely sensitive. -And you know, she doesn't really react well to transitioning or changes. -More frustrated and more agitated and he would have temper tantrums. -You know, being the parent of a son with autism is a 72-hour day job. It is never ending. There's always something happening. There are issues, and you've just always to be on your toes. -And I've found the hardest part of being Dan's mother was society's reactions to him. I wanted him to be accepted. It was very painful for me to have him go to school. It just seemed to me that dogs were the perfect symbol of what Dan needed, and then that's when Danny started getting into television, Disney movies, children's books. -She really loved these movies and she would always constantly watch them. So, Disney is a big favorite of hers, but Disneyland. To go to Disneyland is a bit too much of an experience for her. Too many lights, too many people, especially when we're in a crowd. There's too many things to buy for her to be able to have that experience. -There's too much going on in this world. You have to be a squeaky wheel in order to get the services that you need. This was a revelation to me, you know. It's just bizarre and unfortunate. -When it was time for me to get back to work, I really didn't know what to do and I didn't wanna go back in the film business. So, I heard a prayer inside my heart that just said start working with kids with special needs and teach them singing, dancing, and acting. -Sensitive. They call me sensitive. -You know, they say that mind-blindness is a core feature of autism, but to me, society is what's mind blind and thinking that we're so sure that autism is a disability. -And I just want him to be happy. I don't care if he's the president of the United States. I want him to be happy. I can say that he's one of the greatest people I've ever met. My son has completely changed who I am as a human being. -Really, raising Danny has been really wonderful for me personally. Now, I just say what I think, say what I feel, and Danny taught me that.' -Neil is so bright. He just perceives a little differently, but he's really extraordinary. -Having autism does not mean you're a basement baby. It doesn't mean you look crazy. It doesn't mean you are crazy. You have special talents. You have special skills as an autistic person. You just have to find out what they are. And once you find out what they are and you put that into what you love, they can be a really productive member of society. -You will rise up to meet what is needed, and so that's why every parent ultimately provides the best for their child. -At every step, every step that he takes, we're the lucky ones. The every little step becomes extraordinary. -If we stick together, if we glue ourselves together, if we find that common goal, there is a common goal for our kids to be okay. That's our common goal. And if we-- if we walk through life with that singular mission, I think we're a very powerful group.